Desert life, wilderness life, is not the life many of us desire. We chase after dreams of promised lands filled with milk and honey. We long to get back to the lush Garden of Eden. We thirst for the Living Water. But so much of our lives are spent in the in between, wandering through the wilderness.
I talk sometimes as if this time has only affected seasons of my life but, if I was being honest, I would tell you that it has crept into most of my living. Joy and sorrow are rarely in the neat, separate boxes we imagine them in. Desert wandering, the feelings of uncertainty and confusion, have made their way into most steps of my life. I gather manna but at the end of the day, it will go bad and I sleep with open arms, waiting on the Lord to provide grace for the next step forward.
I used to fear the wilderness. I assumed that lack of foresight on where I was going meant lack of faith. If I didn’t know what the next ten steps were, I feared that others would wonder if God was truly working in me. I often cried out to God wondering if this was in fact the case. But the book of Hosea has gently reminded me that the wilderness isn’t always a bad place to be.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor (or trouble) a door of hope.” -Hosea 2:14-15
God does good work in the wilderness. He meets our hearts in places of distress, of emptiness, and reminds us again and again that He will fill it with good things. His faithfulness is as sure as the sunrise and when He strikes us down, it is only to mercifully bind us up in His love (Hosea 6).
These empty, desolate places are where He works on our heart. When we feel abandoned by all others, He is there to remind us that He does not abandon. When we long for water, He fills us with Himself. Instead of manna, He has welcomed us again and again to His table and offered Himself to sustain us.
So do not fear the desert, for Jesus works in desert places.
He causes springs to burst forth from rocks and is no less able to work a might miracle in your situation. But even if He doesn’t you can trust that He will work a miracle in your heart.
The past eighteen months have not been what I desired. I expected babies and love and instead have been handed an empty womb and yet another deployment. But God has captured my heart in these days. He has led me gently, often while I drag my feet, and has drawn my heart back into His worship.
See, I am reminded on Sunday mornings, here is my very body and blood! I’m giving them to you to sustain you. If I didn’t hold this back, why would I hold back any other good thing?
He pities my stubborn heart and draws me out into this wilderness place that I might delight in Him alone once again. He reminds me of His faithfulness, of the goodness and love He lavishes on my life. And then I go forth rejoicing.
I don’t know what the next step is, but I do know that He will be there. I know His love is going before me, beckoning me to trust in Him. Again and again, He has proven Himself faithful and as the old song says, “He hasn’t failed me yet.”
I don’t expect that He will start now.